Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Breaking Race Barriers: The life and Times of George V McLaughlin





He was New York police commissioner, banker and civil society leader. He also broke race barriers in police and baseball. A tribute to George V McLaughlin who died 50 years ago on December 7, 1967.



Around Christmas in 1925, when George Vincent McLaughlin was offered the post of New York police commissioner by mayor Jimmy Walker, he was not sure whether to accept. He had no police background, and as the Brooklyn Eagle, his borough’s newspaper, said his contacts with the police until then were limited to an occasional chat with the patrolman or the traffic cop.  


So he replied to the mayor, refusing to accept the post described by the New York Times as the most difficult in the city administration. But a few days later, on January 1, 1926, he was there at the steps of the City Hall as Walker announced the appointment of his new police commissioner.  The mayor said McLaughlin, who was 38 then, had agreed to accept the post, spurning offers he had from the private sector to take up the task of fighting crooks and maintaining order in the sprawling city of five million.


So what changed his mind? Reporters on police beat who raised this question never got a direct answer. “My daughter Kathleen wanted me to take it up,” he told Silas Bent of New  York Times. Most friends had advised him not to accept, no one had been successful in the position. It was a  swamp that could swallow even the toughest and why risk one’s career there? He was successful in his position as Banking Superintendent in New York state.


But little Kathleen was only two and a half years old and she thought her six-foot, 200-pound father could fight all the crooks in the city with his big hands. And that would be fun. But Jeanne, her sister who was six, was not sure and so said nothing. So was their mother Hazel K Sullivan, who worked in the banking department.


It appears the real force behind his decision was New York governor Alfred E Smith. McLaughlin, by this time, was very close to Smith and Walker had requested Smith to persuade him. Smith was a popular figure and had built up a formidable name as a reformer. He was first elected governor in 1918 and was responsible for a number of reforms that put the interests of common people at the center, in that Gilded Age. Smith came up from the working classes and he prided in his subaltern background. He had famously claimed he received his highest degrees from the university of Fulton, meaning the Fulton fish market where he once worked as an assistant. When Smith came to power, McLaughlin was a banking examiner, after working for years at Brooklyn’s North Side  Bank even as he studied during the night to get his degrees in law and accounting. Smith made him superintendent of banks, a position in which McLaughlin excelled. This took him closer to the governor, and soon he was in the governor’s inner circle. Another person in that Albany circle was Robert Moses. During the next 40 years, McLaughlin and Moses would work together in many projects that involved the city’s development.  


Many thought McLaughlin was a Tammany recruit and Smith’s man in the Walker administration. His name was first mentioned to Walker by a journalist, George Van Slyke, who used to know him at Albany. The New Yorker thought his appointment was a ploy to present a Tammany administration in respectable attire. In a profile on the new police chief, tilted Tammany in Modern Clothes, New Yorker’s Oliver Garrett described McLaughlin “honest, direct, forceful, but lacking finesse” and predicted he “will need all his guts” to survive in the new job.


But, it soon turned out, McLaughlin was his own man. The Mayor had assured him a free hand and Tammany, for the time being, kept itself aloof. The New York City in the 1920s was a burgeoning place: its boroughs were teeming with millions and every week thousands of migrants came to its shore, from every part of the world. It was a city of opportunities, for the good,the bad and the ugly. Crooks and bootleggers took over the streets at nightfall. Holdups and murders were aplenty. In those Prohibition days, speakeasies and gambling dens thrived with political backing and the police were corrupt.  


Corruption was all pervasive; it spread from the lowly patrolman to the highest levels of administration. Richard Enright, his predecessor who held office for eight years, faced continuous interference from the City Hall under John F Hylan. Many files were missing from the headquarters and among them the ones relating to collection of funds for police welfare activities from wealthy New Yorkers. It was found much of this amount had disappeared.


Police badges were available for those who could pay and that helped them flout the rules. The system of honorary police officers was used by the rich and powerful to don their cars with plaques announcing their position as honorary deputy commissioners. During the previous regime, there were many such dignitaries who enjoyed the privileges of a high ranking officer, with no responsibilities. McLaughlin cancelled all honorary positions and ordered return of the plaques to the department.  


The special squads set up to fight vices like gambling and enforce Volstead Act that prohibited sale of liquor was another issue. They were a force to themselves and answerable only to the commissioner. Some of them were corrupt and their antics notorious. He ordered the special squads disbanded and asked the men to report for duty at police stations.


And that was what the city needed. The city police had around 14,000 men on its rolls but there was an acute shortage of patrolmen on the streets. Within five months of taking charge, McLaughlin increased the number of patrolmen on duty by 1600 men cutting down on staff “deployed in numerous soft berths and clerical positions,” the NYT reported.   


The staff morale was low. Merit was ignored and racial prejudices rampant. Promotions were at the whim of top officials whose arms were twisted by politicians. McLaughlin made the system more open making himself accessible to his staff. The day New York Times reporter James Young went to  see him at work, his first visitor was an officer called Ryan who was denied his promotion for long. McLaughlin told him, “I am proud of you, Ryan. That was a fine piece of work in Brooklyn. I liked the way you tackled those fellows...And from today, you are a third grade detective, Ryan. And good luck to you.”


Samuel Battle was a young man from Harlem, the first black person to be appointed to the New York police in 1911. His promotion had been held up. McLaughlin promoted him as sergeant in 1926, soon after he took charge. McLaughlin, announcing his promotion, told Battle that he had received anonymous letters against him but “I thought they belonged to the waste bin.”  


There were many such officers who found their work recognised and promotions granted during McLaughlin’s time. Among them was Lewis Joseph Valentine, an officer who served as police commissioner during mayor LaGuardia’s term in office.  


McLaughlin was meticulous and punctual. He reached his office at 240 Centre Street, before nine and received visitors; sorted out grievances and complaints before moving onto his other duties. He tried to be with his men, when tough actions were called for. He was courteous, and matter of fact. He never brooked interference in his work. That was a complete break from past practices, when politicians minted money with a hand in the city administration’s every posting, transfer and promotion.


He refused to entertain politicians who came seeking favors. Such toughness caused tension and unpleasant encounters. One such incident involved mayor Walker and a Lower East Side politician Edward Ahearn. Eddie’s problem was simple and genuine: Shopkeepers in Yiddish neighbourhoods had trouble with the city’s Blue law that insisted shops remain shut on Sundays. But most Jews kept their shops closed on Saturday and remained active on Sunday. If a patrolman came, they could be handled with a bribe or some influence peddling. But when McLaughlin came, this did not work and shoppers complained to Eddie Ahearn, Democratic leader in the locality and a Tammany man. Eddie went to meet the mayor to complain.


But Walker would not listen. He said McLaughlin was not taking orders from the City Hall and there was nothing he could do to help Eddie. Exasperated, Eddie asked why did he remain mayor then. Walker, eager to shift the blame on Al Smith, said, “Look, Al Smith put McLaughlin here. Let Al Smith pull him out.”


The story is that raging with anger, Eddie rose from the chair, spat on the mayor’s face in contempt, and stormed out, inaugurating a period of bitterness and cold war between the two that lasted many years.


McLaughlin had an eye for numbers and at the end  of his first year he came up with statistics about the crime situation in the city, claiming good progress. He gave a report to the mayor in February 1927 which said: During the past year, the assault and robbery cases, “the class of crime most feared by society,” were fewer by 20.9 percent compared to the previous year. The number of burglaries was the lowest in the past ten years, showing a reduction of 18 percent. There was a decrease of 15 per cent in grand larceny and six percent in homicides.  But his achievements towards the last quarter of the year were striking: there was as much as 40 per cent drop in serious crimes showing the growing effectiveness of his methods.  


His achievements were praised all round but his methods resented by men in power who were used to a pliable police force. In enforcing the law, McLaughlin was uncompromising and that put him in conflict with some Tammany bigwigs. Among them was Brooklyn Democratic leader and alderman Peter J McGuinness.


Pete was a colorful politician in Brooklyn, known as as the king of Greenpoint. Like Al Smith, he had working class origins and came up in public life through hard work. He was a prominent alderman and was responsible for many improvements in public amenities. Once he came up with a bill that sought to ban women smoking in public places. In the prohibition era  New York, politicians and policemen were the keepers of public morality, and once news about the new bill became known, cops started rounding up women having a leisurely smoke, though the bill had never been made into a law.


Pete was the man who ran the Democratic club at Greenpoint and it was rumored to be a place for gambling. McLaughlin’s special team barged into the club one evening, arrested Pete and a few others and seized a big amount of money.


It was a sensational raid, and Tammany Hall, which had kept out of police affairs until then, decided to step in. A team of Tammany leaders went to meet mayor Walker. It was never disclosed what transpired, but on March 29, 1927, McLaughlin announced  his resignation, after 15 months at the helm of New York police department. He said he was leaving to take up an offer at Mackay’s cable company. He handed over charge to his successor Joseph A  Warren, a  law partner and friend of Walker, a few days later.  


Warren lasted only eight months, as the mayor asked him to quit following the sharp spike in crime rates in his first three months itself in comparison to the time McLaughlin was in charge. In fact, NYT was being prescient when it wrote: “George V McLaughlin, in the opinion of many close observers, has practically remade the police department during the year and three months he has been in  office and has made a record for efficiency in administration that his successor will find it hard to equal.”  


Four years later, following allegations of corruption against Walker administration, governor F D Roosevelt ordered an inquiry, and former judge Samuel Seabury was made the Hofstadter commission’s counsel. Seabury was a stern and brilliant lawyer from a family of generations of brilliant jurists. When reporters asked Walker about the Seabury enquiries, the mayor  quipped, “Life is full of Seaburies...” At the end of the Hofstadter inquiry, Walker was forced to quit and board a ship to Europe, for a vacation that lasted years, in order to avoid the long arm of law catching up with him.


McLaughlin was one of the witnesses who testified at the inquiry. Asked about his relations with the mayor, the former police chief said, “If non interference was the best way of cooperation,” he had received it in full from Walker. He aso revealed the raid on McGuinness’ Greenpoint club was not an accident--he said he had told the Brooklyn Democratic leader John McCooey about what went on behind the closed doors there. His warning was relayed to the club, but McGuinness ignored it. Then there was no option but to go on with a raid, which he did.


It was in this atmosphere of rampant corruption revealed by the Hofstadter inquiry that the 1933 mayor elections were held. The Depression was at its peak, 25 per cent of the working people unemployed. The reform movement was strong and its political arm, the Fusion party, was led by judge Seabury. In their search for a strong and credible candidate, McLaughlin was a choice, but he refused. Robert Moses was another, but Seabury was opposed to him and that led them to settle on F H LaGuardia, who always wanted the ticket.


The Democratic candidate was Tammany’s nominee John O’Brien, and it was thought it would be a straight fight. But then a third candidate appeared,  Joseph V McKee. McKee was put up by a new entity called Recovery party and one of its leaders was McLaughlin, who served as chairman of the campaign committee. McKee’s last minute entry was interpreted as a strategic move by President Roosevelt. But in the end, LaGuardia won and McKee came second.


Again in 1936, McLaughlin was in the headlines, as a Democratic heavyweight who ‘took a walk’ to the rival camp. FDR was seeking reelection and Al Smith, who had become so bitter with the President, decided to support his Republican rival Alf Landon, governor of Kansas. In Brooklyn McLaughlin was one of the Smith loyalists who followed him to the Republican camp with disastrous results. In this race, FDR returned to power with a landslide victory. Ever since, McLaughlin kept himself away from active party politics.             


In business and social life, he remained a leading figure. He had left Mackays in less than a year, and moved back to banking in 1930. For the next two decades he was president of Brooklyn Trust Company, a prominent Brooklyn bank. The Brooklyn Trust was in charge of the finances of Brooklyn Dodgers, a great team with great players and a great fan following. Among its fans  was Ernest Hemingway. Red Barber, veteran commentator who used to broadcast Dodgers and New York Yankee games, remembered how the writer used to hang around the team. He wrote in NYT in a memoir: “I was around Hemingway casually in 1941 when Larry MacPhail took the Brooklyn Dodgers to Havana for spring training... He was fascinated by all those mighty men of muscles, the ballplayers. He used to leave his finca and hang around the Dodgers in the lobby of the National Hotel. Then he took some of them to shoot pigeons. Several times he had some of them at his finca.”  


The Dodgers were legendary, but their finances were in a mess. The team was deeply in red, its telephone lines at the 215 Montague Street headquarters had been cut and the two families that held its shares the Ebbets and McKeevers were squabbling and the Ebbets Field, where its games were played, was in ruins. There was urgent need to get things under control. McLaughlin was not only the man who controlled the purse strings, he was also trustee for the families that owned the team. He led the negotiations that persuaded Larry MacPhail, who used to run Cincinnati Reds, to take over the Dodgers as general manager. Larry came with plans for the revival of the team’s fortunes, the only hitch being lack of money.  


Larry went to meet McLaughlin at his bank’s headquarters at Brooklyn Heights. McLaughlin conducted his business affairs from its second story office and his social affairs from room 40 at Hotel Bossert. Harold Harris of Brooklyn Eagle wrote about this private gathering as the most exclusive luncheon club in the borough. “Nothing is ever written about this place where banker George V McLaughlin, known to his intimates as George the Fifth, rules over a table of political hierarchy, ” he wrote.


Larry laid out his plans and asked McLaughlin for $ 200,000. The year was 1937, a time when the economy was still reeling under the effects of Depression, and the team owed the bank $700,000. Besides, the Ebbets and McKeever heirs owed money to the bank as they had taken loans against the shares as collateral. Sinking more money into the team was not a sober proposition, but as a leading citizen of Brooklyn, McLaughlin could not let the team go under. He took the plunge.


Larry did wonders with the Dodgers, turning it around in a short while. When he left in 1942 to fight the war, the team’s finances were in better shape, part of its debts cleared, and it had a deposit of $150,000 in the bank. When Dodgers won the pennant there was much excitement in the borough, MacPhail hailed for his brilliant achievements. But one enthusiast wrote to the Brooklyn Eagle that “little mention is made of the one man who, perhaps more than any other, deserves the kudos for bringing the pennant to Brooklyn. I refer to George V McLaughlin, banker extraordinary...” the writer said, pointing out that it was McLaughlin who spotted the one guy [MacPhail] that Brooklyn needed and then let him dip into the till to his heart’s content. “Where will you to find a banker who would have the good sense, as well as the civic consciousness” to do so, he asked.  


Then came Branch Rickey to lead the Dodgers. The war was raging all over the world, but Rickey knew it would end sooner or later. When it ended the boys would be back home and they would look forward to good entertainment. It called for scouting for good players and he wanted to look afield for new talent. He thought the racial barriers must be broken to bring in great players kept out of the national league. Bringing in black players who until then played in the Negro league would also bring in the large number of black youngsters to the stadium and that would mean a great new source of revenue.  


But breaking the color barrier was not easy. Here again it was McLaughlin who gave him sober advice and encouragement. This is how Jimmy Breslin in his biography of Branch Rickey describes the moment when Rickey broached his idea with McLaughlin: “McLaughlin had an old style of reasoning that came from years in police stations and bank negotiations. ‘If you want to do this to get a beat on the other teams and make some money, then let’s do it’, he told Rickey. ‘But if you want to do this for some social change, forget it. We want to win and make money... If this doesn’t work for money, you’re sunk.”


McLaughlin knew how enormously important was this decision. It meant taking on the brick walls of racial prejudices. It would bring in a huge backlash. But then, he was a businessman to the core and he reasoned there was no argument that would succeed like a solid business argument. He was not prejudiced on racial lines and had proved his willingness to honor merit twenty years earlier when he promoted Samuel Battle. Now he did the same thing standing behind Branch Rickey as he made history signing up Jackie Robinson for the Dodgers.


That was in 1947.Ten years later, Brooklyn lost Dodgers when Walter O’Malley took the team to Los Angeles. It was McLaughlin who had made O’Malley part of the triumvirate he had installed to run the club when the heirs of the old owners sold out. The others who held shares were Branch Rickey and John L Smith, president of the Pfizer company. After the death of Smith, differences between Rickey and O’Malley came to a head and finally O’Malley took over the team buying out Rickey’s shares.


O’Malley, son of an old friend of McLaughlin’s in Bronx, was a protege of the banker from the days he was hired to look after the foreclosure business of the bank in the 30s. Later, McLaughlin put him in charge of the Dodgers’ finances. It was from here O’Malley made his way up to the ownership of the franchise.


O'Malley wanted a new ballpark, as he felt the Ebbets Fields was no longer sufficient to hold the rising number of spectators or park their cars. “Ebbets Fields was built in the trolley car era.There are no trolleys to speak of today but there are automobiles and ..parkways,” he wrote to McLaughlin and park commissioner Robert Moses in 1953, asking for a new ballpark to be built at Fort Greene were slums had been cleared for new developments.


Moses refused point blank. He wrote back: “...our slum clearance committee cannot be be used to encourage speculation in baseball enterprises. You are, of course, the best judge as to whether in fact a new Dodger stadium would be anything but a white elephant...” O'Malley made an appeal to McLaughlin, Moses’ long time colleague, but he could do nothing to help.    


When Walter O’Malley announced his plans to take Dodgers to the west coast, McLaughlin made a last ditch effort to keep the franchise in the city. He addressed a press conference at Waldorf-Astoria, with a plan drawn up after consultations with Larry MacPhail and Branch Rickey. It accepted the need for a new ballpark, and he thought the ideal spot would be Flushing Meadows in Queens. This could be built at public expense, and he expected to persuade either Dodgers or Giants, who were also negotiating a move to the other coast, to remain in the city. In case it fails, he proposed a a new team in which the players would have a share of the profits and the team would be run by a non profit corporation. Mayor Robert Wagner was in favour of it, parks commissioner Moses was supportive and New York Times wrote that this appears to be the only way for the city keep its franchise. But in a few weeks both the Giants and Dodgers had left the city.  


The departure of Dodgers was an acutely felt personal loss for most Brooklynites. For McLaughlin it was a deeply felt loss. For three decades, he had run the team, his opinion was vital in any decision that counted in its affairs. He had brought in O'Malley to the board as his personal choice and helped him with money to purchase his initial shares in the team. O'Malley was close to him, and often described as his adopted son taking care of his personal affairs and driving him home in those evenings he imbibed prodigious amounts of the spirits at the numerous dinner parties he had to attend. He could never forgive O'Malley for what he did and never spoke to him in later years.


McLaughlin's decades long association with Robert Moses was another matter that received much public attention. Robert Caro, in his biography of Moses, The Power Broker, has said McLaughlin as vice chairman of Triborough Bridge Authority played second fiddle to him, allowing him to run the authority as a personal fiefdom. He hints it was business interests that motivated McLaughlin who had stakes in the Equitable Life Assurance Society which had dealings with the authority.


But this does not seem to be fair criticism. McLaughlin was generally supportive of the decisions Moses made, and many of them controversial, but he had very little choice. Moses always had the power of public opinion on his side. Even President Roosevelt had to beat a retreat when he made an attempt to remove Moses from the authority in 1936. Secondly, McLaughlin was enthusiastic about the kind of public works that changed the face of New York. But still, he firmly opposed the move Moses made to shift $ 6 million of authority money to the loss-making New York World Fair in 1963. He resigned from the fair committee and issued a public statement denouncing Moses.


Two years later his term at the authority came to an end, after 31 years serving under various administrations. He was already 78. He had left his career at banking industry over a decade earlier retiring as chairman of Manufacturers Trust Company, with which his Brooklyn Trust Company had merged in 1950. But he continued on its board, and was associated with a large number of business concerns and social and charitable organisations. Among them were Fordham and St John's universities, Equitable Life Assurance Society and Consolidated Edison Company.


McLaughlin was a public person all his life. He never minced his words nor retracted from his positions. During the Depression, he called for changes in the way banks and businesses operated, in the New Deal days he opposed profligate spending and when the war broke out, he was a leading figure in civilian efforts to face the difficulties. He cared for the youth who went to fight in the war and ensured every Brooklyn boy who came back home did receive a great welcome and a ticket at Ebbets Fields where the Dodgers played. He loved sports and instituted the McLaughlin trophy for basketball. As a banker he was president of the New York Bankers Association for one term and helped formulate its policies in the difficult years of Depression and bank collapses.


He loved good food and good drinks and was a towering presence in any gathering, that earned him the epithet George the Fifth among friends. He loved to play handball and was known to be a skillful player even in his old days. In fact on the day of his death, December 7, 1967, he had enjoyed a round of the game and after lunch with his friends at the Athletic Club, had come home at 610, Park Avenue, when he had an heart attack. He rang up his daughter Kay Jeffords living three blocks away and told her about it, adding “this seems to be the last”, according to a family member. Half an hour later when she arrived, he was already dead. He was 80.


A requiem mass service was held at the St Vincent Ferrer Church, Lexington Avenue, the next day and his body was laid to rest at the Gates of Heaven Cemetery, Westchester, with the NYPD band playing the farewell tune to its old chief.


Image courtesy: Police commissioner McLaughlin with officer Ryan, New York Times, 7 February, 1926.


(This story is dedicated to Elizabeth D. Jeffords who has spent 13 years in India, trying to improve the lives of scores of children, through education and empowerment. She first told me about George V.McLaughlin, her grandfather.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Remembering Henry Brownrigg




HENRY Brownrigg died at his London home on December 22, 2016, as he was trying to get  into a car to go to his sister’s home for Christmas. As his nephew Christopher Lindsay,who held his hand at the time, told me the next day, his heart just stopped ticking and in another moment he was gone. This year-end trip to his only sister’s place was quite routine for him: Henry once told me his sister’s home used to eat money all the year round and then at the end of the year, it came alive as all the family members came together to celebrate Christmas and New Year.


He was ailing for some time, with a liver disease and a few weeks ahead of his demise he had undergone a surgery and came back home cheerfully, and in the next few weeks he spent much time reading and reviewing a book on politics and economy that I was writing. His comments were extensive and in depth that I think the ideas he had set out in those emails might be enough for another book on the subject.


Henry was highly knowledgeable, helpful to others, and he remained optimistic and witty about life even in the trying times. He was a liberal, a supporter of British Labour Party, and a democrat who remained steadfast  in his commitment to an open society. He responded to the developments in the world around him in a passionate way and I remember the night of the Brexit vote he kept himself awake late into the night and as the outcome became clear his  immediate reaction came in three words: ‘Oh, my God...!’ He was extremely well read, had travelled all over the world and had personal contacts with people in many continents. He told me a few weeks before his death that he was working on a few projects including a coffee table book on his collection of photographs of Kerala churches, a research project on some aspects of the Geniza records even as he was reading a few books that caught his fancy.


He never took his scholarship and academic brilliance seriously, though he had written scholarly articles on Kerala history in the South Indian Journal of History that came out from Kerala University in Trivandrum and also gave lectures at places like the University of Pennsylvania on topics of his life long interest. He was a highly rated expert on history and that was one reason why he was a guest at the 70th anniversary memorial service on the D-Day at Normandy  in France, a battle in which his father had served as a captain of a battleship of the Royal Navy.  


I became friends with Henry almost a decade ago when I was working on the European tombs and other heritages on the Malabar coast that date back to many centuries. He was at the time Kerala representative for the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) and he sent me lots of material  that he had gathered. His deep contacts in all these places were unbelievable--once I was wondering how to locate a small gravestone of a British soldier who had drowned to death in river Chaliyar in the interior of Nilambur forest early in 20th century and then he told me he had been there and had all the details of the gravestone.


It was a pleasure to work with Henry on matters of mutual interest, and luckily we had quite a lot of common interests. He had toured Kerala criss cross for many decades and had visited and photographed many temples, churches and mosques over the years. This way, he was a chronicler of the changing times and cultural practices in Kerala landscape. Most of these old places of worship, many of them built side by side in a display of the traditional camaraderie among the region’s various faiths, had quite a lot of common features from an architectural point of view. Often they were built by the same architects or thatchans who served the local kings who had Muslims, Christians, Jews and caste Hindus as his prominent subjects. He had taken many photographs of Christian and Muslim places of worship that were remarkably similar to the Hindu temples in a wonderful display of this cultural symbiosis that was the hallmark of Kerala history for a long time. (See accompanying photographs of two mosques in Malabar with traditional Hindu temple features--from Henry's collection.) Now that many of these older places of worship are being pulled down, and modern monstrosities taking their place, Henry’s own work might be one of the staunch reminders of this great Malayali heritage, now sadly being lost to our own collective memory in an age of deliberate cultural exclusion and religious bigotry.






I think Henry was aware of this aspect of his work and he acutely felt the significance of cultural links between peoples and nations. In India he had seen how communal politics could play havoc in a society known for its peaceful ways. A week before his collapse at his home on November 15 which took him to a hospital for three weeks, Henry wrote to me as follows, when he was reading a history of Calicut  by historian Dr MGS Narayanan:


R.[a mutual friend] certainly agrees that Narayanan, though still probably the most prominent historian of Kerala, has moved to the right and is giving de facto support to the BJP.  So I started reading the book with a critical eye, and found it less biased than I had feared. I agree with you that he underplays the Christian role, but arguably Christianity was the nemesis of Calicut which never fully recovered from Portuguese suppression of Arab trade and the consequent rise of Cochin. MGS accepts the early role of Buddhism and Jainism - for instance that the Thiruvannur Temple was adapted from Jainism to Saivism in the C11th, as is reflected in the apsidal form of its srikovil. He is also quite good on the Kuttichira mosques, debunking the suggestion that their architectural similarity to temples means that they might be Malayali versions of the Babri Masjid. And he goes out of his way to make the point that the strong Islamic presence in Calicut can be attributed not just to the Cheramen Perumal legend but certainly to the mutual benefit of of international trade. So Hindu-Muslim Calicut was a prototype for a tolerant inclusive India.  Surely this is not the sort of message which the BJP is anxious to hear.”
         


This note alone is sufficient to show that Henry was a great friend of Kerala and also of India and acutely aware of its secular historical and cultural roots. His love affair with this country started in the mid-seventies when he first came here as a representative of the Anglo-American Gold Company which used to own many gold mines in various parts of the world. It was the days after the Emergency in India and Morarji Desai was the prime minister. Henry used to tell stories about the gold love in India and the illicit trade that became hectic during those days of Gold Control Act. He once took an adventurous trip in Dubai, going blindfolded to a dhow that was involved in smuggling of the precious metal to India. He was furious about a London newspaper which had promised to publish his experiences and instead went to town with the story attributed to someone else in their desk. His article published in 1982  in the company journal Optima was an excellent piece of writing on gold in India--its role in the country’s ancient culture and history, the legends connected with the yellow metal and the peculiar aspects of trading in gold in the small shops in Rajasthan and the big malls in Mumbai.



Henry came from an upper class family in UK -- his father retired as an admiral in Royal Navy and then served as chairman of an independent television channel. After public school, Henry went to Oxford where he was an office-bearer of the Oxford Union in the early sixties. He told me about the evening they hosted Malcolm X, the revolutionary black leader from the US, at Oxford Union debate and the dinner they had together. It was one of the last public appearances of Malcolm X as a few days later he was shot dead back home. Henry had kept a photograph of the Oxford Union leaders with Malcolm X and among them was writer Tariq Ali, who remained a life long friend of Henry, like many others from every part of the world.

Henry refused to write down his own thoughts but his letters and emails that he fondly wrote out on a regular basis are so rich in ideas and images that bring out the intellectual brilliance of this most affable of human beings who will be missed by all those who knew him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Malabar: Christian Memorials volume two release in January


The second volume of the book, Malabar: Christian Memorials, which covers the area from Wynad to Travancore, will be released in January 2017. This is a sequel to the earlier book with the same title, that dealt with Kannur, Tellicherry and Mahe, and published in February 2012.

Both books were researched and produced by New York social anthropologist Dr John C Roberts and Calicut-based journalist N P Chekkutty and published by South India Research Associates (SIRA), a voluntary network of scholars and genealogical researchers. This is the third book of genealogical research from SIRA in the past five years.  

The present book deals with both European colonial legacy as well as the local Christian society in Malabar and has details on thousands of burials based on meticulous research in cemeteries, church burial registers and archival records.  It covers English, French, Dutch, Portuguese and other European burials as well as of local denominations and covers all major towns and colonial outposts like Calicut, Malappuram, Palghat, Cochin, Alapuzha, Kottayam, Quilon and Trivandrum. 

The 300-page book has an extensive collection of rare photographs in an eight-page colour section. It also has a number of pen portraits of important individuals as well as a user-friendly index that will help researchers find the burials with ease.


For those who book in advance, publishers offer attractive discounts. For details, write to info.sira@yahoo.in  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Accidental Peacemaker: The Life of Tom Jeffords in the Frontier


Thomas Jonathan Jeffords played a key role in the historic truce between the Apaches and US Government in 1872. His life inspired the novel, Blood Brother, and hollywood movie, Broken Arrow. A tribute to the man on his 100th death anniversary.


The General, as usual, was in high spirits--he was a veteran of many battles, and had lost his right arm in one of those. He was a man with a flowing dark and silver beard, his eyes piercing into your depths. His assistant,  the lieutenant, was tall and soft spoken and he had served the General for years as aide-de-camp. He too would lose a limb--his leg amputated when an unruly horse threw him off, crushing it. He was silent and observant; he often kept writing in the notebook hidden in his breast-pocket.

The General kept talking about this mission, a mission of peace from the President, and also from God. General Oliver Howard was like that --he was known the Christian General in the Army and every time he spoke, he loved to quote scriptures.

Tom remembered his first meeting with the General. He was just back from Apache lands, serving as guide to a military patrol for 27 days. They often asked him to help, as he knew the place like the back of his palm, doing business in those parts. It was no easy business, the Government troops had been locked in fierce battles with Apaches in that vast and wild zone for a decade. White men were legitimate target for rebels and he had lost men in the days he ran the stagecoach service from Fort Bowrie to Tucson, the line going through rebel lands. He never really wanted to spend his life running stagecoaches through those inhospitable hills and valleys where death lurked, but then the  Butterfield company people came with offers that were irresistible and he had nothing particular to do either. So he took it and in the next 16 months counted 14 bodies of his people. And on his body, a few arrows.   

That was when he decided to take the bull by the horns. Thomas Jeffords was a man of action, and never afraid of anyone; not even the fierce leader of Chiricahua  Apaches, the six-foot warrior chief Cochise, who moved like a bullet on a swift horse --his gun blazing. Tom jumped onto his horse, slung his rifle across the shoulders and galloped on--he knew where to find chief Cochise after his raids, enjoying Apache dances and feasts in the company of his wives and fighters, and approached the camp in full view of everyone, his progress deliberately slow and steady.

That was how he became friends with the rebel chief. Cochise was a brave man, a great leader of his people. He liked  the ones he thought brave and straightforward. There were none among  the whites he had known, and he believed treachery was their way of life. He had lost his father to their scalp-hunters, his brother and father-in-law taken prisoners and killed, hundreds of his people murdered and his followers driven from place to place in the lands where they had lived in peace for centuries until the white men came with their guns and greed.

It was Tom’s personal peace mission. He only wanted to be left alone, riding his horses with the stagecoaches in tow through these lands. He was doing no harm to anyone, he was only carrying letters and food and other things to those people going west-- in search of gold and silver and a new life in those frontiers, opening up. Cochise listened to him and his pleas, as the Apaches in their war paint and their women listened, wondering what their chief was waiting for, why not finish him off without wasting time?

But Cochise wanted to talk, and he was looking for a man to talk to--somebody from the whites who could understand him, his people, their life. They had lived there all their lives, they had no quarrels with these men who came to rule the country, but they cheated him and treated his people badly, and he remembered the treachery they played on him, when he went to Fort Bowrie with his family to help the Army find a boy on the ranch, who had been missing. They suspected he had taken him hostage. But he had never taken the boy, he had no quarrels with the Americans, his troubles were with Mexicans. He thought he was going to the fort as a friend, as chief of the great Chiricahua Apaches, but once inside, he saw he was a prisoner.

But they had underestimated him. He was chief Cochise and their forts and guns would not stop him. As he jumped from his seat and rushed out tearing the canvass sheets with his knife, and disappeared, their bullets failed to touch him. He was the son of those woods and hills and canyons and unbeatable in his elements. The Army hanged his brother, killed his followers, tricked Mangas Coloradas, his father-in-law, into their camp and took his life...How could he, Cochise, accept all this and not hit back, take his revenge? How could he spare anyone?

Tom could see the point. He had seen how the newcomers treated the natives, from the days he was running steamboats in the Great Lakes up north soon after he left his parents’ home in Chautauqua in New York. They were nice people, his parents, very religious and some of them Quakers and preachers who faced difficulties for their beliefs, but he left home early as a boy. He was a man of the wild and tried his luck far away in the west. He tried running boats up and down the Mississippi where they called him Captain Jeffords, and sold wares in Apache lands. He was Army courier during the Civil War in those deserts of the west. He loved to be left alone, do what he liked to do and thought the Indians too had the same rights as he had. And the white people never liked it and most of them thought he was queer and some called him the dirty Indian lover. So he sat there enjoying the mules meat and the Indian drinks Cochise offered,and by the third day they were two great friends, never to be separated.Some said they had become blood brothers, their friendship consecrated in a rite of mixing blood.But Tom never spoke about it, nor did he try to dispel rumours.

The General had come from the Capital, as envoy of the great father in the White House to the rebels, to offer them the olive branch. He had spent many weeks travelling from fort to fort in the deserts, looking for a way to meet the elusive Indian chief. He had sent word through emissaries, expressed his readiness to negotiate a new era of peace.  

Lieutenant Joseph Sladen, his aide-de-camp, told him about the “mysterious white man” who was blood brother of Cochise, who could make the General’s wish come true. General Howard lost no time and there he was face to face with Tom, the man in his early forties with a long red beard and a carefree look.

Sladen’s notebook and General Howard’s letters home to his wife have left details of everything that happened in that historic trip. Tom himself later described his meeting with the General at Fort Tularosa in New Mexico on the evening of September 7, 1872. The General was in earnest, he held his spectators in awe with his aura of greatness and bravery at places like Gettysburg.  But Tom was tired, keen on the whiskey that flowed in the dining hall. He knew what the General wanted, and he had run similar errands for the army -- two years earlier General George Crook and Indian affairs chief Nathaniel Pope had asked him to persuade Cochise to come to the camp for talks, and he had been offered 2000 dollars for his efforts. He spent weeks looking for Cochise and caught up with him in Canada Alamosa. But Cochise refused to come -- he did not trust them. Tom returned with his message but some people said he was lying, he had never met the Indian chief. Tom did not get his full pay.

So he thought it was better to keep out of this trouble, again. He told the General he could never persuade Cochise to come, but then, added, “I can take you to him if you so wished...”

He never expected the General would accept it; not many would. It was madness going into the wild, into the rebel lands. And most did not even see the need for talks. Finish them off, bring in more Howitzers, they said marvelling at the way the Indians fled when the big guns were first brought in. But General Howard was a different kind of man. He said, ”Yes, we will go to him” and without an escort, as Tom suggested.  

Both knew it was a gamble, fraught with huge risks. Both sides also had misgivings about each other. General Howard had been warned about Tom. "We were warned that he was a suspicious character,” Sladen wrote. Some senior officers said his dealings with Cochise were suspicious, that he was believed to have furnished Cochise with arms and ammunition...

Tom too had his misgivings."I was prejudiced against him on account of his well known humanitarian ideas, and, to my mind,  posing as a Christian soldier,” he told a historian years later.

But both changed their views of each other. Tom said he held General Howard “above all other men for honor and bravery.” And the General, on his part, recorded that “I did not reject the services of a brave man like Jeffords who periled his life to make peace because of slanders not proved...”

The General and Lt.Sladen had started their journey from the Capital on July 10, reaching Pueblo in Colorado by train and from there they had reached Santa Fe by stage-coach and then Fort Wingate and Fort Apache on horseback, finally arriving at Fort Tularosa on the desert outskirts on September 4. They had crossed “hills, valleys, crags and canyons.” At Tularosa, the General’s horse stepped into the quicksands as they crossed the river and he jumped into the water to save himself.

Now it was time for the final journey, into the mountains where Cochise and his bands lived. They set out on Friday, September 13. Towards the end of the journey, a team of five -- the General, Sladen, Tom and two Apache guides, Chie and Ponce, both closely related to Cochise.

The General was in high spirits, but Sladen recorded what was uppermost in everyone’s minds-- the dangers they were exposed to. The Apaches with their  poisoned arrows were watching them from every hill, every rock, every canyon on the way. They were moving, unarmed, in the realm of a person who had killed more than 5000 Americans --almost half of Arizona’s entire white population -- in his dreadful decade-long campaign of retribution. Even Cochise recognised this when, later on, he commended the General for the bravery shown in this journey which would have cost him his life.

They travelled for 16 days and on 29 September reached the eastern flanks of the Dragoon Mountains, a vast and arid region full of rocks, where Cochise and his Chokonen band were stationed then. Ponce and Chie communicated with their brothers through smoke signals and they were allowed to move in, crossing the Middlemarch Pass the next morning.

They moved into the interior of the mysterious mountains and  then Chie said he would go alone and announce their arrival. The team waited for a long time until they saw Chie return with two boys on a single pony who bade them follow in their trail. They reached a camp where they saw many men, women and children, but  no Cochise. He would meet them the next day, it was announced. The next morning, October 1, they were taken to another spot in the rancheria, a natural fortification protected by huge rocks, where they met the chief, “a six foot-man as straight as an arrow.”

That evening, the General returned to the Fort Bowrie to instruct the forces not to harm any of the Chokonen bands returning to join the peace talks. Sladen and Jeffords stayed back in the camp. The chief offered them dinner, which Sladen happily enjoyed, realising hunger gave real taste to food.

After dinner, as they were smoking, Tom asked Sladen: “How did you like the meat?”   
“Well enough,” Sladen said, ”though it seemed rather coarse and tough for antelope, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was rather coarse for antelope,” said Jeffords,”but it was good enough for old dead horse, and that is just what it was...!”

The old chief, however, wanted to offer antelope meat to his guests. For lunch, he sent one of his men to hunt down an antelope and he took off with his gun, but returned empty handed, driving the old man into a rage. “His face flushed in anger, his keen black eyes flashed,        
and his voice rose to a high key, and the returned hunter arose and slunk away like a whipped cur.”

They spent the nights under the sky. “Spreading out my blanket,” Sladen wrote, “I lay down upon the steep hillside, moving here and there a stone a little larger than the rest, as it made its projections uncomfortably manifest in my back...I lighted a pipe, and wrapped myself in my blanket against the piercing cold of the mountain.”

The negotiations continued for two weeks, and finally the declaration of peace was made at a huge rock called the Council Rock, in the presence of military officers from Fort Bowrie as well as the chiefs of various Chokonen bands under Cochise. It was an oral treaty between two honorable men, nothing written down, as “the Indians had a singular dislike to seeing any writing done.They thought there was bad medicine in it for them and did not conceal their objections to it.”

Thus the peace treaty was born, a decade long hostilities came to an end, and the Chiricahua reservation was created for the Apaches, and Jeffords appointed as the agent to take care of their affairs and report back to the government.

Then the General and his loyal lieutenant left, promising to send up provisions for the people in the reservation so they will no longer have to go on raids-- Jeffords was left behind to take care of the implementation of the terms of the treaty. The General was home in November after six months in the deserts and mountains.  

It was the turn of Tom to hold onto the tenuous strings of peace. He was made agent, as Cochise insisted. He trusted no one but Tom among the whites. And the whites hated him for that very reason--he was an Indian lover, a traitor. The military disliked him, they thought it was easier and better to wipe these people off the face of earth than to feed them.  

The Apaches had called in all their roaming bands to the reservation, to live in peace as their chief ordered. Tom was to supply their weekly rations, but stocks were running low. He tried to get supplies on credit; when shoppers asked for payment he rummaged his own pocket or funds. He wrote to the General in desperation who took steps to get things moving.

Keeping the Apaches in peace was not easy. They sneaked out south, into Mexico for plunder, and bought contraband liquors with the money thus gained. They were unruly, and some of them were not happy with the terms of the truce. Only the iron will of Cochise held them in check.

And Cochise was a dying man. He was now old, his body weak and feeble, the discomfort in his intestines was growing. He knew his time was short. Tom went to meet him, and the old man asked as he took leave, ”Do you think we will meet again?”
“Unlikely,” Tom said, “you may not survive another day...”
‘Yes, tomorrow morning it will be,” the chief said, “but we will meet again...”He said, his finger pointing to the skies. “Good friends never really part...”

And the next day, June 8, 1874, he was dead. The wailing of his people was heard all over the mountains. He had chosen his successor before his departure, his son Natchie, and told them to stick to peace and go by the advice of “Red beard”, as Tom was known among his people.
The funeral was a private affair, Tom the only outsider to witness it. It was their custom to burn  clothes in honor of the departed soul, and many burnt their best clothes as they bid farewell to their chief. His body was taken in a procession to the deep canyon in the mountains, his belongings thrown into the deep, then his hunting dog and his horse, followed by the chief himself. Where did they bury him remained a secret --Tom took it to his own grave.

With Cochise gone and tensions mounting, the tide was turning against Tom: The Apaches continued their raids to the south and Tom was accused of encouraging their depredations, and Tom knew it was not in his powers to stop them, even Cochise had been evasive on these raids, he said he never had a truce with Mexicans. The government officials were never friendly, his supplies delayed and in deficit, and in 1876 the beef ration was cut. The Indians became restive and two of them got killed in a fight and then came an attack on a ranch and murder of two others and all hell broke loose. Two Indians had got drunk from a bottle of bad whiskey they got from a man called Nicholas Rogers who ran a stagecoach station, on the edge of the reservation. Tom had warned him against selling liquor to Indians, but he continued his lucrative trade. Late that night the Apaches went back to Rogers, demanding more liquor. He refused and they killed him and his cook on the spot.  

The frontier press had never been friendly to Tom. They thought him a renegade, an Indian stooge. The most virulent attack came from John Wasson, editor of Tucson Weekly Citizen, who wrote an editorial titled Thomas J Jeffords, a piece so poisonous and one-sided that it later gave rise to a big fight between Wasson and a fellow editor in the town. The Citizen called Tom an “incarnate demon”, whose crimes they reeled out on the basis on the testimony of an unnamed gentleman. Jeffords was accused of being drunk most of the time, of giving arms and ammunition to Apaches on their raids and receiving the spoils, of hiding gold plundered from  Mexicans, of having welcomed with an embrace the murderers of the rancher on their return to the reservation, of refusing to arrest them for their crime, of allowing to keep a girl in the reservation taken hostage by the Indians...

The editor said they had hoped he would gather his filthy blood money and creep off to some forgotten corner and lie down to die preparatory to his transfer to an inevitable hell. “If he had killed himself or slunk away to some hidden corner of the earth, we might have passed over this frightful revelation...” he assures his readers. Calling upon the authorities to “arrest him and bring him to speedy trial,” editor Wasson concluded, ominously: “It is possible that he has lived among the savages and their worse allies so long as to have forgotten the temper of the American people.”

Tom was away in the reservation, trying to bring order in an increasingly difficult situation. He was left  with few friends, and even those who had supported him earlier were shifting their position as they saw which way the wind was blowing. The General was far away and even the state’s governor, who stood for peace in the past, had now turned a hawk. The truce had become an orphan, and Tom was left alone, holding it. In the midst of all his troubles, he wrote a reply to the Citizen's tirade, and sent it to a friend in Tucson. It was an excellent piece of writing, a balanced and yet firm rejoinder based on facts, supported by written testimony from Capt. C B Mc Clellan, commanding officer of Fort Bowrie, refuting some charges raised by the Citizen alleging the Army had serious problems with Tom.

Editor Wasson, however, refused to publish it. For him, his opinions were the gospel. However,  
Charles O Brown, to whom Tom had sent his response, approached other editors in the town and finally, T J Butler of Prescott Weekly Miner, agreed to publish it. He gave an announcement a week in advance, asserting “we know nothing of the controversy” and were not pronouncing a judgement either. He said they decided to publish the letter to “give a fair hearing to an accused man,” as justice demanded.
Wasson was enraged, and he pounced upon Butler calling him a brainless and marrowless hermaphrodite. “We will have nothing to do with him [Tom Jeffords] except to drive him to a court of justice,” he asserted defending his decision not to to publish Jeffords’ letter. He described Tom the great criminal who has been a deadly incubus on the society.

Butler responded in kind calling Wasson a person beneath the recognition of gentlemen and a blackguard with a self-conceited head. Tom’s reply along with the letter from Capt. Mc Clellan  was published on the front page of Miner on June 9.

Tom, in his letter, asserted the editorial was untrue from commencement to the end. “There is not an assertion in the article but what I can prove to be so in every particular.” Then he dealt with every single charge in the Citizen editorial, demolishing them one by one. As for the charge of his taking blood money, he said, “I wish to state that and can prove that instead of my having made money since I have been Agent for these Indians, I am poorer now than when I was first appointed”. He said he had warned Rogers against keeping whiskey in the ranch as he could be killed for it, and also had sent a written notice to him that anyone disposing of whiskey to Indians would be prosecuted. He said he could prove all his claims, but “if the Arizona Citizen would take the pains to get its information from some reliable source, I do not believe that any vindication would be necessary, so far as I am concerned.”

The accompanying letter from Capt. Mc Clellan, dated May 20, 1876, gave the lie to the Citizen’s charge that Tom had welcomed the murderers of the rancher calling them friends and had refused to take steps to get them arrested. The statement is false, Capt. Mc Clellan said. “You never in my hearing styled the murderers ‘good Indians’ or ‘friends’, but you stated to me that ‘they were bad Indians and that they ought to be cleaned out’.” He also gave him permission to publish the letter, noting “you may use this in any manner you see proper.”
But Tom’s fate had been sealed, and the four years of tenuous peace was about to go up in smoke, with another decade of bloody encounters soon to erupt. The hawks had won out, and the federal authorities had decided to exile Chiricahua Indians from their traditional grounds further away, to San Carlos, using force if necessary. San Carlos agent John P Clum had already raised a militia of ranchers to complete the task and he marched in, with his troops, and Tom Jeffords was removed as US Federal Agent on June 8.  

Tom had assured he would assist the authorities if they wished to exile the Indians away from the agency. He did everything he could, calling all the 900 families of Indians under his charge together to ensure they had moved out. But the move was a disaster. Most of the able-bodied men and their families slipped away --some crossed the borders to the south and went back to their old ways. Only 90 families reached San Carlos. Soon violence erupted again, under new leaders like Juh and Geronimo.
Geronimo soon became the most feared rebel leader after Cochise--until his surrender a decade later. Sladen recalls seeing him at the peace talks: His crafty, cruel, vindictive looks and his disinclination to deal with us made him an object of extreme dislike and suspicion, he wrote. Among the new rebel leaders were Chie, their affable young guide at Dragoon Mountains, and Natchie, youngest son of Cochise who, as a kid, used to crawl himself into Sladen’s blanket in the camp on cold nights.

General Howard was unhappy with the unravelling of all his exertions. But he was far removed from the scene and powerless to influence the course of events. He expressed his feelings in a private letter to Sladen: “Every promise you and I made those Apaches, through Jeffords, was afterwards broken by the agents of our Government. The Indians were bad enough, but I think we have been worse...”

For the Apaches, certain and irreversible doom was written into their destiny. The war continued for ten years until the final surrender of Geronimo and Natchie in September 1886. For the next quarter century, the Apaches were driven from one colony to the other, never allowed to their original homelands. From San Carlos, they were sent to Florida, from there to Alabama and then to Oklahoma, a life of misery and wretchedness, separated from their children forcibly taken away to a school in Pennsylvania. Finally, in 1914, 28 years after their surrender, the Apaches were allowed to return to New Mexico if they so wished, and most of those who survived chose to go back home, to the Mescalero reservation; among them Natchie, one of the last rebels to survive.

Tom also returned, to his lonely and nomadic sort of life, trying many things to make a living -- like running a copper mine, working as a guide, an army scout and a merchant... He was never married, though some say he had fallen in love with an Apache girl--may be one of those gazelle-eyed girls even Lt. Sladen describes admiringly: I have seldom seen a prettier picture than that of one of these young women sitting astride a horse and riding like the wind, with her colored garments and long braids streaming in the breeze behind her.

But he never said anything about it.

Nor did he care what others said. He had made many enemies, and some of the people whom he had known said bitter things about him. William Ohnesorgen was one among them. The man had bought a herd of sheep from Mexico in November 1875 and drove them home through the Chiricahua reservation, in violation of the rules. The sheep muddied water in a pool the Apaches had set up for their use,  and after a heated dispute they stoned the sheep, killing a few of them. This led to a legal wrangle between Jeffords as the Apache agent, and Ohnesorgen.  

Years later, Ohnesorgen said: I knew Captain Jeffords. He was a no good, filthy fellow...lived among those damn things [Apaches] and once in a while he would go down and haul one with him...

By 1892, Tom had moved to a barren and broken place 35 miles north of Tucson, called Owls Head. It was a mining district and he spent the next 22 years there, until his death, only rarely making an appearance in the  town. Once he was sighted on the town’s streets after a gap of four years--an event noted in a report in a local newspaper. At Owls Head he lived alone with his dogs and the mines’ workmen, in a frame house with a well, a mill site, a fine grove of saguaro cactus in the front yard and a fence around. His possessions were few and when he died, they found that he had only the barest necessities at home, besides his fine collection of minerals and a shotgun.

In those final years, he became very close to a woman named Alice Rollins Crane, a writer and adventurer, who had arrived in the place in 1887. She wanted to write a book on Cochise and made him agree to take her to the Dragoon Mountains, where the peace talks had been held. Then when she  heard gold had been struck in Alaska, she rushed there and met a Polish nobleman Count Morajeski, who had fallen on bad days. They married and soon went back to Tucson, to the evident pleasure of Tom who had been taking care of her mining properties. When news reached the town of the passing of Tom Jeffords on February 21, 1914, it was Morajeski who first reached the distant and lonely place Tom had made his home. A week earlier, on February 14, Tom had hurriedly prepared his will, leaving all his properties to John, his brother, who had accompanied him to the west.

The funeral took place the next day, a memorable farewell to a great pioneer. Most of the old timers were there and Tom's body was placed in the coffin in an excellent suit, his whiskers trimmed neatly. The ceremony was organised by the Pioneers Historical Society, where Tom was a founder member.

The town's newspapers which once bayed for the man's blood, wrote enthusiastic obituaries on the old man describing him the blood brother of Chief Cochise.  And soon, the descendants of the Apache chief were to return to their home grounds after almost three decades as prisoners and refugees in many distant lands.

And Tom went on his final journey and into an enigmatic legend. He was buried at Tucson's Evergreen cemetery and the grave remained unmarked for half a century. In 1964, Daughters of the American Colonists made him a headstone that reads:

THOMAS J. JEFFORDS
1832-1914
Friend and blood brother of Cochise
Peace-maker with hostile Apaches 1872
Erected in 1964 by Daughters of American Colonists.


(My thanks to Elizabeth John Dobson Jeffords, Bangalore & Denver, for comments and valuable insight into the family's life and history.)


 
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